Just Playing Serious: Getting creative to get ahead in business

ANU College of Business and Economics 16 November 2018
It doesn't always have to be all work and no play.

It doesn’t always have to be all work and no play.

Building success isn’t always quite so literal. But the growing body of play-based research is putting ‘play’ back at the centre of creativity, innovation, design, business strategy and adult cognitive development.

The notion is that once we reach adulthood play is unproductive or indulgent, skips over a hard-wired biology, which is, that play brings joy and is vital to problem solving, creativity and relationships.

Creativity is known as one of the fundamental building blocks of success, and one of the most fundamental building blocks we’re all familiar with is the (not-so) humble Lego™ brick. Creativity, if you ask Dr Stephen Dann from the Australian National University Research School of Management, starts with hand-mind connections.

“When the hands are engaged with an object, what they have found is, you end up having more ideas percolate. Stuff surfaces you weren’t expecting.”

That is where ‘serious play’ comes in. The duality of two seemingly competing ideas juxtaposed makes all the difference. Play with purpose.

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY participants use common Lego pieces to build objects that represent abstract ideas, and which assist in explaining complex thoughts in visual metaphors.

“You’re given a challenge, you make a model which you use to explain your answer, and you find the stories coming to you because you’ve just literally put the answer together in your hand,” says Stephen.

Serious play allows participants to confidently navigate the uncertainty and ambiguity of the modern business condition.

By externalising the processing of reflective thoughts, individuals are able to explore challenging ideas of the self through metaphor, storytelling and sense-making in a controlled and supportive environment.

Participants are encouraged to take risks with no repercussions, where real-world consequences would normally exist. The approach creates an environment where ideas can be made, shared, and recombined into new ways to unlock creative ideas, strategies and thoughts.

Serious play focuses on non-judgemental conversations, where because each participant has complete control over the meaning of what they make, no one in the room can shut down an idea, pull rank, or judge harshly. Switching the usual meeting hierarchies of loudest voice, fastest reflex and highest rank opens up the room to sharing much more information than you get from a standard sit around the table.

Stephen facilitates LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshops to showcase how transformative creative thinking can strengthen your decision-making skills, and find your leadership strengths.

“What we are seeing is those who come and give it a go, trust the process, and really gain from the experience. They build relationships, they discover their strengths,” he says. “And if you’re sceptical, you’re more than welcome to come along, give it the critical appraisal, and if nothing else, you get to play with Lego for a bit in the name of serious curiosity.”

When: Thursday, 6 September 2018, 12 pm – 2 pm AEST
Where: Vibe Hotel Canberra, Canberra, ACT 2609
Cost: $30

Click here to register for one of Stephen’s upcoming workshops.

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